I hereby wish to fulfill an obligation of conscience toward a man of great spirit and strength. At a time when the refugees were weak and oppressed, a man from among the simple folk of the nation raised himself up to the great heights and selflessly helped any Jew, simply because he was a Jew.
There was a Jew by the name of Hirsch Gelobter, the son of Susi-Feiga Gelobter of Rozniatow who lived in the nearby village of Krechowice, near the train station. At the time of the expulsion, he was exiled along with his wife and daughters to Bolekhov and went to live with his married daughter Genia Salitir.
At the time of the first German aktion in Bolekhov, he lost his wife and two of his daughters. Afterward, he went to live in Dolina and settled in the place where his sons worked, in Roshkov at the Pfeffer sawmill. For entire days, he would walk among the homes of the Jews to see how he could help the weak and poor in their straits. Since he was a known cattle merchant, he knew many of the gentiles in the area. Despite the danger to life that existed in searching for merchandise, he began to conduct business with the neighboring gentiles in all types of foodstuffs in order to supply them to the local Jews at cost price. He attempted to purchase calves or larger animals. He secretly slaughtered them in accordance with Jewish law and distributed the meat in small portions, without differentiating between rich and poor. At night he would stealthily bring the animal to the barn of my brother-in-law Mordechai Kornblit who lived outside the city. Every Wednesday, the shochet (ritual slaughterer) knew that he had to go there secretly in order to slaughter and make the meat kosher 1. The meat would then be distributed to all the needy in accordance with a list that had been drawn up previously. He would take no profit for himself. This enterprise was fraught with mortal danger, for if he would have been G-d forbid caught, he would have been shot on the spot. He placed the innards, bones, and leftover meat into bags in his pockets and gave them to my sister to divide up among the poor of the city, most of whom were Rozniatow natives. This took place each week. My sister Mantzi did great deeds. She cooked the bones and leftovers in a large pot into a meat soup, and went from house to house on Thursdays to distribute portions of soup with small pieces of meat.
I remember that once, Kasrielchi Koflis, who used to frequent our home, came to our house and received some cooked victual on occasion to restore his soul. Once he turned to my sister Mantzi and told her: Listen, Mantzi, perhaps you can give my Thursday portion today, for I am afraid that I will not merit to receive my portion on Thursday.
Hirsch Gelobter acted in this fashion for several months. There was no home, no Jew, who did not know him and the good deeds that he did for them. It once happened that he met a group of weak and feeble Jews who were being beaten by the butt of the gun of a German oppressor. Gelobter approached the S.S. man and pleaded to him: Please have mercy upon these weak, elderly Jews. Leave them and do not beat them.
The German left the elderly Jews and began to beat Gelobter with his gun. Despite his advanced age – he had already reached the age of 60, -- he was strong and muscular. He grabbed the German with his two hands, quickly took the gun from his hand, and began to beat him and bite him with his teeth. He pushed him to the ground and beat him with all his might. The German fell to the ground, wallowing in his blood like a slaughtered swine. The Jews who stood around and witnessed this frightening scene were trembling from fear.
Gelobter fled and hid in one of the hiding places in the city. His hiding place was known to almost all of the Jews; however they all kept the secret and nobody turned him in or slandered him, for everyone loved him and revered him for his selfless dedication and strength of heart.
The Jews lived in constant fear, trembling, without knowing what to do.
|Hirsch Gelobter and his wife
The Judenrat – the Jewish Council – turned their eyes away from him even though they were responsible for him. Even the members of the local Ukrainian militia who knew him, and would have been able to search for him and find him, did not get involved in the matter, for they feared that if it became known to the oppressor Krieger in Stanislawow what a Jew did to an S.S. man, they would be punished severely.
The members of the Gestapo in Dolina also did not want to do anything, out of embarrassment that a Jew was brazen enough to beat an S.S. man. They also suspected that the matter was known to their superiors.
Hirsch Gelobter always told people that he prayed to G-d that he would not fall alive into the hands of the Germans. His request was fulfilled in a dramatic and heroic manner.
After the liquidation of Dolina-Broshnev, they found him lying in his dwelling riddled with bullets, with an axe in his frozen, bloody hand.
When the S.S. men entered his home on the day of the liquidation of the ghetto and wanted to take him out to be murdered, he greeted them with an axe and killed several S.S. members. He held his stand and fought like a lion with the axe that was in his hand until he fell in sanctification of G-d and the nation.
May the holy memory of this righteous, brave person be remembered for a blessing forever.
For these do I weep, my eyes, my eyes drop with water, because the comforter who should restore my soul is far from me; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed. (Lamentations I, 16)
My eyes fail with tears, my innards burn, my liver is poured upon the ground on account of the breach of the daughter of my people; because the young children and nursing babies faint in the open areas of the city. (Lamentations II, 11)
The famine worsened. Every day became more and more difficult. People spread out in the fields, and attempted to find something to eat in any nook and cranny, without success.
People endangered their lives and went to the neighboring villages with all sorts of items of value in order to swap them for food. Yosef Halpern was walking along the paths of the villages in the area of Rozniatow where he had previously done business. The villagers found him on the path and murdered him on the spot. The daughter of Itzi Rothbaum of Krechowice went along with her husband Tishenkel to the villages in order to swap items for food. The enemy Krieger found them on the route. He beat them and tortured them, and finally shot them and murdered them on the road.
The enemy Mueller built a death camp in Vishkuv. On occasion he would appear in the city, capture a few Jews from the street, and beat them and then shoot them in the street. His first victim was the young son-in-law of Yosef Kassner, the husband of Baltzi Kassner – Meir Nestel. A few days later, that selfsame despicable person met a young handsome Jew, Shaya Stern of Mizon, among a group of working Jews. He invited him to his office, quietly took out his revolver, and without saying a word, as if he was going about his daily affairs, shot him in his handsome face and murdered him. He immediately enlisted several Jews to clean the floor well from the blood of this swine, so that there would remain no trace or memory of him.
Every two weeks, the Jewish Council had to supply 25 or 30 Jews to Mueller to work in the death camp of Vishkuv. It is hard today to understand the reasons why there were many volunteers to go work there, even though it was known that nobody returned from there.
The Germans established with the Jewish Council that the workers be changed monthly. To the credit of the members of the Jewish Council, I wish to point out, that despite their hard work and the tremendous responsibility which was placed on them to fulfill all of the request of their Germans, they did not lose their Divine image 2 and did not turn into oppressors of the Jews, as the Germans had intended of them. Since it was not clear what the situation was with the Jews in Vishkuv, a delegation consisting of the director of the council and the chief of the Jewish militia Edzi Pfeffer traveled there on a mission of the council, along with a new group of Jewish workers, in order to see what was transpiring there. Of course, they also never returned to Dolina.
The council attempted to maintain contact with friends and acquaintances from all the neighboring towns in order to find out what the situation was in those towns, so that they could be prepared for the same fate when such a day arrived.
I maintained a constant connection with my relatives and friends in the area in order to find out what was happening with them; what was going on in Stryj, Stanislawow, Bolekhov, and Kalush. I maintained very frequent contact with a few friends in Kalush. My friend Shabtai Rosenberg visited me for a week, as well as Lunek the son of Vevzi Teneh. When Shimshon Rechtschaffen and his daughter Fantzi came to me, they urged me to visit my friends, the Rozniatow natives who were in exile in Kalush. They had some sort of premonition that perhaps this may be the last time that inspired them to urge me to visit my friends.
The time that I spent in Kalush was a time of frightening chaos. I did not succeed in visiting many of my acquaintances, for they hid in their houses and were afraid to go outdoors. There was great crowding in the rooms, with fifteen or twenty people in one small room. Since the residents of Kalush had already tasted the bitter taste of an aktion, and saw with their own eyes what was being done with the refugees, they were extremely frightened about what was to come. They felt that something ominous was approaching. It was hard to recognize the Jews. They had simply lost their human visage – they walked around outside like as shadows. The despair and devastation could be seen in their eyes without even a sound being uttered from their lips. They looked at one another with their despairing eyes as if they were taking leave of each other. Their eyes, so to speak, uttered eternal words of parting.
I will never forget the heartrending scene in which the children approached me with screams and bitter weeping. These children included Shimshon’s Fantzi, and Tenchi and Izo of Rivka. They simply were not willing to permit me to return home to Dolina. Despair and agony enveloped the ghetto. Everyone was trembling and frightened. Those who did not want to sit with their hands folded in despair searched for means of escaping this valley of the shadow of death, this cemetery. They made various plans. Dr. Nunek Lusthaus and his wife Irina the daughter of Dr. Feier, as well as their daughter and mother Mrs. Esther Feier, went to live in the village of Vytoicha where he worked as a physician. Dr. Hilman went to the village of Spas. Dr. Fried and his wife Loti Friedler went to the village of Yasenovetz. Dr. Fold-Karp and his wife Eva went to the village of Lipovetcha. They all worked as physicians in those places, and were completely isolated. They left behind relatives and friends without knowing their fates. Four Jewish families continued to live in Rozniatow. These were Dr. Sabat and his wife (nee Weinreb), Litower, Dr. Mina Froiman, her husband Fishel and daughter Aviva, and the pharmacist Margolis. Weekly, one of them came in stealth to Dolina to find out what was happening with their friends and relatives, and to draw some support and Jewish spirit so that they would be able to continue living amongst the gentiles. Those who were sitting, so to speak, on the fleshpots were jealous of us Jews who were starving and perishing of hunger, tribulations, and fear. At that time, they understood the meaning of the adage: shared troubles are half a comfort.
Along with the refugees from Rozniatow, Krechowice, and other such places, several hundred refugees from Hungary also arrived in Dolina.
At the end of April 1941, The German commander issued an edict that all the Jews of Hungary were permitted to return to their homes until the 1st of May. After that time, the border would be sealed. The Hungarian Jews literally ran to the border in confusion. Many Jews of Galicia joined them, hoping that they would be able to save themselves together with the Hungarian Jews.
The Germans gathered together all the Jews at the border. On May 1st, Commander Krieger along with several S.S. men arrived on two automobiles and murdered all those gathered at the border, more than 500 Jews, the elderly, children, and women. Not one of them survived.
When the Jews of Dolina found out about the terrible massacre at the border, they began to tremble in fear, and the town was ill at ease. The Germans immediately figured out what was bothering them, and began to calm the Jews. They said that no harm would befall the Jews of Dolina. On the contrary, they were quite needed, so they have nothing to fear. The Jewish Council had only to pay for the bullets that were used during the aktion. An accounting is an accounting. They must maintain their order.
I wish to relate here an incident that took place, and illustrates how cheap were the lives of the Jews.
Schultz, the Gestapo chief of Dolina, used to practice his shooting skills by shooting at birds in the garden of his home. Once, when he was practicing his shooting in his garden, Yankel Leib passed by along the old road that was next to the courthouse, with two buckets of water in his hands. Without thinking, Schultz pointed his pistol directly at him and shot him on the spot.
The lawless situation, the hunger and despair, took their toll. The Jews became indifferent about their lives. They no longer hid in their homes, and no longer were afraid of the Gestapo on the streets. It did not matter to them if they would receive a bullet in the head. They no longer were afraid of death, which could only save them from the pangs of hunger. Daily, some Jew was found dead on the street, or someone was taken to Stanislawow, never to return.
In the Valley of Murder
On the Sabbath of August 29th, 1942, the eve of the day of murder, I met by chance Rudek Karp, the brother of Dr. Leopold Karp, who had returned from his work in the nearby village of Sukhodol from the Sabbath. I also met Dolek Lusthaus and Boral. They were among those who worked outside of the city, and were free to go home. The reason for their being freed for the Sabbath was strange to others and myself. The Germans do not free people from work without a reason. When I said this to Rudek, he tapped me on my shoulder and said with a bitter smile: What can still come? They will kill me, so what? Today it will be me, tomorrow it will be you.
Late Saturday night, my neighbor Shaya Teichman brought me the news that in the town from which he had just arrived there was great chaos. Several busses filled with soldiers and Gestapo agents, headed by the enemy Krieger, had arrived and surrounded the town. Krieger and Mueller sat down for a meeting with the Jewish Council and were engaged in a discussion with Dr. Julius Weinreb. We immediately warned our neighbors what was about to happen in the city. However, to my great surprise, the matter made no impact, and did not frighten anyone. They will kill us? So what? It is better to die quickly than to die slowly from hunger.
The victims of the sword are better off than the victims of hunger
|The first of those who left Berlin
for the United States after the War
Standing is Shaya Lutwak, Sashi Gelobter-Weidman, and Meir Ungar
Sunday, August 30th, 1942, the 17th of Elul 5702, was the day of murder. At 4:00 a.m. I heard shots. I had enough time to place a large lock on the outer door of the barn that was filled with rows of wooden planks. We arranged a place of refuge, where myself, my sister Mantzi, Mordechai 4, and their children Saraleh and Devora hid. I quickly ran to the house of the parents of my brother-in-law where my other sister Hentzi was, and I told them to flee quickly to us. However my sister did not want to leave her home under any circumstance, since she felt that nothing serious would happen. On the contrary, she requested that I remain with them.
Suddenly, we saw throngs of Ukrainians with axes and other weapons of destruction in their hands. They broke down the door with their axes and shouted like beasts of prey: Jews, get outside! They attacked us and everyone else in the vicinity with their axes and guns. The screams of the smitten Jews reached the heavens. The Ukrainians removed anyone who was in the room. I myself do not recall how this took place. At that time, I happened to be in the dark room, and I instinctively slunk under the bed to hide.
|Hirsch Ratenbach and Yeshayahu Lutwak
at the entrance to the Berlin D.P. Camp in 1946
To this day, I do not know how I was able to overcome my fear during those few moments. I heard clearly one murderer say to another in Polish: It is too bad that I did not bring my electric flashlight. They passed by me without noticing me. After a few moments, silence pervaded the house. I heard the murderers close up the house with boards at the front and back doors. I crawled out of my hiding place on my belly and saw there were signs pasted on the windows, which said: Whomever pillages this house will be shot by the Gestapo.
My brain worked as fast as lightning. I realize that at this moment, I was out of danger. In the meantime, due to the harsh warning on the sign, nobody would be so brazen as to break into this house to pillage it. I quietly went up to the attic, beneath the shingles, and from the cracks in the boards I was able to see everything that was taking place outside. My eyes saw how the S.S. men and their Ukrainian assistants, armed with all kinds of destructive weapons, dragged out any person who was found in the Jewish homes. The S.S. along with the Ukrainians lined up the large crowd of prisoners into five lines and began to bring them to the central square of the town. S.S. men, with their guns aimed, lined both sides of the route. After them a large crowd of Ukrainians followed, happy and rejoicing over the spectacle. They followed after the Jews, who were their former neighbors and friends.
From my house, I could not see the frightening scene of the screaming and wailing Jews gathered in the central square. However, I heard a detailed report of the events from Sani Kassner, who was an eyewitness. I met him a few months later in the Stryj ghetto. He related to me what happened. After the murder of his brother-in-law Meir Nastel in the Dolina ghetto, he left the Bolekhov ghetto and arrived at the home on Friday, exactly two days prior to the mass murder. He was not able to leave there, for the entire town was surrounded by S.S. men, and nobody could come and go. His parents lived in the town square. A portion of their house had been confiscated by the Germans for use as an office, and his parents lived in cramped conditions in one small room in the back.
Since the windows of the front of the house belonged to the Germans, and there were all sorts of German notices and placards on them, the Germans passed over this home and did not damage it. From that house, which was in the center of town, they were able to witness with their own eyes what was taking place in the square.
In the center of the square, the Jews were ordered to kneel down with their hands over their heads. Woe unto anyone who took a stand and lowered his hands. Immediately, such a person was attacked by the Ukrainian militia and S.S. men, and was dealt deathblows with their guns and sticks. Several people were shot on the spot. When the Germans saw children in the arms of their parents, they removed them by force from their parents’ arms and beat them on their heads with stones from the heap that was at the side of the road. Then they would toss the dead children down before their parents’ eyes. The shrieks and wailing were beyond description. With my own eyes, I saw one of the murderers approach Moshe Shulman, the son-in-law of Avraham Strumwasser and husband of Chaya, and attempt to remove by force the young child that was in his arms. Shulman fell upon him and began to wrestle and strangle him. Immediately, some S.S. men approached and killed him on the spot. We saw Aharon and his sister Mintzi Enis struggling with the Germans, refusing to be brought alive to the valley of murder. The murderers shot them on the spot. Enis was still able to throw his homemade hand grenade, and he killed several of the murderers.
The Jews, half naked and flowing with blood, some of them not recognizable, without any desire for life, were then brought straight to the Jewish cemetery, where previously the Jews had dug three giant pits.
After a few days, Dr. Washkowitz, the son-in-law of Kardash, told me details of what took place to the Jews in the cemetery. He had heard these details from one of the members of the Ukrainian militia who participated in the mass murder.5
In the Jewish cemetery, the Jews were commanded to strip naked. To the melodious tunes of records of joyous German marching music, the Jews were brought, strapped together in a row, to the edge of one of the pits. There was a wooden plank going across the pit, and the Jews were ordered to cross. The Germans stood with machine guns next to the pits, and shot incessantly at the Jews who were walking across the plank. Some were immediately killed by the bullets, and others were merely injured or were not hit at all. However, all of them fell into the pit one after another. The pit filled up with dead, half dead, and living people who were not able to climb out of the pit due to the heap of corpses that were on top of them.
The German machine guns operated until 1:00 p.m., and cut off all remnants of the Jews, men, women, and children, brothers and sisters, bridegrooms and brides, old men and women, young cheder students, Hassidim and people of worthy deeds along with Maskilim and working people. The blood of all of them mixed together into a mighty stream that covered the entire Jewish settlement in which generation of dear Jews had lived, worked, and dreamed about a joint life with their neighbors, about a life of Torah and work, a life of righteousness and happiness.
Throughout Monday, the day following the slaughter of the Jews, the Germans enlisted throngs of gentiles to clean up the streets from the blood of the Jews, to remove the corpses from the houses and yards, and to bring them to an additional pit that had been dug for this purpose. I saw how they succeeded in capturing Leizer Geller and his young son Bodzo, Hirsch Mordechai Schwalb along with his wife and children, his son-in-law Mordechai Leib Bunim, the dentist Yosef Blau the husband of Matilda Prinz, his brother Salek Blau, Avraham Ratenbach, and Yankel Yampel the son of Moshe.
Those who were captured from their hiding places were gathered into one place and murdered together with machine guns.
On Monday evening, when everything was quiet and no people were
about, I decided that it was time for me to come down from the attic where
I had lain for two days without moving. Quietly, crawling on my belly,
and looking around with every move I made, I arrived at the storehouse
of wood and hay. From there, through a break in the wooden plank,
I went at the barn where the rest of my family members who remained alive
were hiding: my sister Mantzi, her husband and their children Sarache
and Devora. There, hidden in the heap of ruins, I saw my dear friends
Yasi Lindenbaum and Chaim the son of Wolf Wigdorowitz, who escaped during
the time of the slaughter and came to that place by chance, and thus
From my friend Lindenbaum I found out that we had no hope of remaining
alive there, since Dolina had been declared Judenrein (free of Jews),
and since all the members of the Jewish Council had been slaughtered as
well on the day of the great slaughter.
A Monument to a Dear Soul
My friend Yosef Lindenbaum told me some details about the last days and bitter end of the holy martyr Dr. Weinreb, the head of the Jewish Council. I wish to dedicate a few lines in his memory.
He was a native of Dolina. He was a Jew with a warm and sensitive heart. He was an enthusiastic Zionist, quiet and modest, not striving for high position. When the heavy burden was placed upon him, he did not lose for one instant his Divine image. He understood his position, and the bitter lot that was imposed upon him due to Divine providence, and he attempted with all his power to help the members of the community over which he had been appointed by the governing authorities. He posted notices and announcements in fulfillment of his duties, in order to requisition the good requested by the Germans. He supplied workers, made sure order was kept, and supervised the Chevra Kadisha (burial society), which was very busy. He did his duty, and no more. When the Germans arrived in Dolina at the conclusion of the Sabbath, headed by Krieger and Mueller, and requested that he supply 1,200 Jews to be murdered, Dr. Weinreb answered them with honor and pride: I am responsible for the Jewish property and for the work force, however I am not the master of their bodies. This is only dependent on G-d who is the ruler and judge over all.
The proud answer of Weinreb aroused the wrath of the murderers Krieger and Mueller. The end of Dr. Weinreb was evil and bitter. First, he was taken to the S.S. headquarters in Dolina, where he was tortured and beaten severely. Finally, Mueller asked that he be given into his custody and taken to Stanislawow. Nobody can imagine the forms of torture that the Nazis inflicted upon their victims, in particular when they wished to take revenge or punish somebody. Mueller had a special torture house in Stanislawow, in the Rudolf depot 6, where he had a staff who was expert in sadistic torture. Dr. Weinreb was brought there, and there he gave up his holy and pure soul.
May his memory remain holy and blessed forever.
I noticed that it was no longer possible to remain at home, since the Ukrainians laid a siege around every home, as perhaps there might be a Jew hiding who should be murdered or turned over to the Gestapo to be taken care of.
On Tuesday night, we left the home and went out to the forests near Odenitza. We met some gentiles along the route who beat us, but they allowed us to continue along our journey. In the forests, we met several Jews who had survived and fled to there. We continued to travel through the forests at night, and rested during the day. We had not eaten for four days.
Weak, tired, and filled with bitterness and despair, on Thursday, we arrived to an area of the forest where there lived a gentile whom we knew. He was Stefan Kardash, the son-in-law of Dr. Ibshkovitz. He received us with love and compassion, gave us some water to wash ourselves, and permitted us to hide on his property, under the floor of the barn, for several days. We rested under the floor of the barn all day, and at night we came out to take in some cool air and straighten out our bodies, which were almost frozen from lack of movement.
Dr. Ibshkovitz and his wife Olga gave us some warm food, and also prepared some food for us for the days, when we would be resting beneath the barn.
Sunday arrived. Gentile friends of Dr. Ibshkovitz arrived in his yard, and the entire conversation revolved around the slaughter of the Jews. We who were hiding in our hiding place heard one of them relate that immediately after the Gestapo and the Ukrainian militia sealed up the pits of corpses, they all swarmed like locusts upon the clothing of the victims. They searched for items of value such as silver ornaments and rings. The pit was pulsating, and voices of weeping and bitter screams pierced the heavens. The murderers were terrified and fled from the cemetery. A few days after the slaughter they still saw that the earth was pulsating up and down. There were still Jews buried alive and wounded in the pits who were attempting without success to escape from the pit of death.
We heard stories such as this from the people that were seated in the yard. Everyone added details about what they had seen without expressing remorse or pain, as if they were simply relating an interesting story. We realized that the place was not safe for us, and we decided to leave immediately. We also thought that if we were to remain hidden, our hosts would also be punished with death by the Gestapo.
The Gestapo put up large posters in the Ukrainian language stating that anyone who turned in a Jew, alive or dead, would receive as a reward a half kilo of sugar, and some boxes of tobacco or a bottle of liquor. The gentiles could not stand up to such an enticement. They spread out in the fields, forests, and houses and searched for living Jews.
Meir Ungar, the husband of Dora Gelobter (who lives today in the United States) related to me the following story.
Near Bolekhov, a gentile captured a young Jewish girl in the forest, and immediately brought her to the Gestapo in order to be eligible for the great reward of a half kilo of sugar and some boxes of tobacco. However before turning her over to the Gestapo, he told them that he wishes to request something else in addition to the customary prize which is due to him. He wished that they would remove the girl’s dress and give it to him before she was to be murdered by a bullet. Why? asked the Gestapo man. Simply, I want a dress without a bullet hole in it. This price was too high even for the Gestapo man, and without saying a word, he took out his revolver and killed the gentile with the first bullet, and the Jewish girl with the second bullet.
Dr. Ibshkovitz knew that in Bolekhov, in a place where there previous had lived farmers of German extraction, several Jews were hidden. He made contact with them and told them about me. My cousin Ethel and her husband Shmuel Gelobter were there. They told me how to get there, and at night, having traveled through fields, forests, and all types of hiding places, I arrived to near Bordishkov. There in the nearby forest, I met people who were wasting away from hunger. They were very weak, and they were afraid of any shadow, sound, or rustling leaf. There I met, among the others, Miriam Kirshenbaum, who was the wife of Leib Kunis and the daughter of Yitzchak Schwindler from the village; and Chantzi Strassman who was the wife of Moshe Strassman and the daughter of Chaya Adler. I could not stay in that place for more than three days. During the days, when the Jews worked as agricultural laborers in the fields, I hid in the roof of the home of my friend Shalom Deutscher. During the evenings, I would steal away to the home of Mordechai Gross and Zisha Aryeh Kuperberg who lived together in one dwelling. There in the small house we were able to discuss our deep crisis and everything that took place with us during these terrible days. We wished one another that we should be able to meet under better circumstances.
We left Broshkov to go to Bolekhov.7 I stayed there only for a short period of time, for I was greatly afraid to stay there. From there, we went to Stryj. There, Yaakov Leib helped me to find a place to put down my head and to rest a bit from all my wanderings. He was already there with his family. However my period of rest there was not to be for long. I remained there for three or four weeks.
In November, another large aktion took place to empty the city from Jews. They transported the Jews of Stryj to the Belzec death camp. More than 2,000 Jews perished in that aktion, including my friend and benefactor Yaakov Leib and his entire family, Gittel Adler, Stultzi Rosman, and Avraham Fogel and his entire family who were at that time in Stryj.
The Gestapo men captured me and beat me with deathblows until I fainted and fell among the dead. I lay there in pools of blood and mud on Lvovska Street until night fell. Then I began to move until I arrived to the edge of a house that had been completely destroyed by bombs. There amidst the ruins I lay down and fell asleep.
When I awoke three days later it was dark. I left the ruins, and saw nothing other than rubble and destruction. In the meantime, the Germans gathered the corpses from the streets. The Jews who survived the aktion walked around like sleepwalkers. I began to wander around the ruins. The period of reprieve did not last long. After a few days, they gathered up all the Jews into the synagogue. They stuffed 1,500 people into the synagogue, which was barely able to hold 500 people. People who had to attend to their bodily needs did so in the place where they stood, since it was simply impossible to walk forward even one step. Many died from weakness or hunger, and the dead lay there among the living. We were not even given a drop of water. The women shouted: Water, give us a drop of water to restore our souls. Many went crazy from the tribulations, the hunger, and the thirst. The Germans, who still required workers, in particular the intellectuals, decided that it would be a waste to kill all the people who were still needed. When they found out that I was a dentist and a licensed mail nurse, they immediately took me to the Jewish Council to be registered as a necessary worker.
After a few days, I met by chance someone else who had survived from Roznatow. This was Susi Weitzman (who today lives in the United States), the daughter of Yosef Gelobter. She endangered her life and went by foot from Bolekhov to Stryj in order to try to save her father and other family members from the Stryj ghetto, or at least to meet them and see them while they were alive.
I was together with Drezel Parish, the daughter of Meir Parish, as well as her husband for a few days. He was rescued from the concentration site in the synagogue at the last minute prior to the Jews being sent to the gas chambers of Belzec. However, due to the extremely cramped and unhygienic conditions in the synagogue, they caught typhus, which was epidemic among the Jews, and died with great suffering.
I now remained alone, forlorn, and weak. Like a wandering dog, I went from one ruin to another, without food and without a place to sleep for even one night, until Susi Weitzman-Gelobter had mercy upon me and brought me to the house of her aunt Chantzi Sobel, the daughter of Pini Berger, who lived in the Stryj ghetto. There, for a short period, I found a place to rest my head and to eat what was still available to eat.
Several Jews who remained alive from the neighboring villages succeeded in stealing into the half empty ghetto at night. Among those who found there way in was Dr. Leon Horowitz, the son of Shmuel Benzis, Mottel Hoffman the son of Shalom Hoffman and the cousin of Marek Rotter, Yaakov Yampel the son of Bendet Yampel, their cousins Buni and Tzippy Angelman, Chaya Stern the daughter of Golda and her five year old daughter Edzi. Dr. Leon Horowitz did not wish to remain in the Stryj ghetto and desired to leave there with his sister Klara Beigeleizen to go to the Lvov ghetto.
After a few days, I found out that members of the Ukrainian militia captured Dr. Horowitz and brought him directly to the Gestapo headquarters where he was shot on the spot. Mottel Hoffman and his cousin Magister Marek Rotter, accompanied by Dudo Blaustein of Stryj arrived at Skole and hid there with a gentile that they knew, who gave them an underground hiding spot. A few months later, it became known to me that that hiding place, where there were some thirty Jews, was found out or reported, and all of the Jews who were there were shot on the spot.
From Bolekhov, where there was still some form of work camp where Jews hoped to be able to continue living until the day of redemption would come, a few Jews began to steal into the Stryj ghetto. Sani Kassner and his wife, his sister Beltzi and her child, Rivka Fruchter the wife of Meshulam, and her cousin Tzipa Kreiter the daughter of Tzipi Kreiter, the son of Meir Zimmerman, Avraham Yechezkel, Meir Laufer, Herman Laufer the grandson of Efraim Rechtschaffen, Moshe Milstein the husband of Bluma, the son-in-law of Chaya Gittel Strassman, Shaya Strassman, Getzel and Yisraelki Frankel the sons of Meir Frankel, and the children of the tailor Yaakov Yehuda – Yenti, Chaim, Wolf, and Shimshon – managed to arrive there, among others. Dolina natives who had survived to this point and arrived there included Mordechai Teicher, his wife and their daughter Beila, along with her husband and children; Moshe Landis the husband of Gittel Enis; Dr. Herman Neuhauser; Shlomo Rotenbach and his wife; Itzik Heker; Yosi Landenbaum and his sister Maltzi; Yaakov Klieresfeld and his young brother; Motka Leiter and his brother; and Moshe Geller with his wife and their children.
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